What Do You Think?
Does the Federal Government Have a "Property Right" in Our Public School Children?
John Wenders, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at the University of Idaho, states that "the widespread argument that the public school establishment will 'lose' students and funds - if children are allowed school choice and choose nonpublic options -implicitly assumes that the public schools have a presumptive property right in children...This is the immoral foundation upon which the arguments of the education establishment rest. And once this is realized, these arguments collapse in an immoral heap."
The Real Eminent Domain Problem
John T. Wenders
The recent Supreme Court decision allowing local governments to take private property for economic development set off a firestorm of protest. States are now scrambling with various proposals to neutralize the effects of the Kelo decision.
Lost in all this is another, more important, eminent domain problem- one that goes to the very heart of the relationship between ordinary citizens and their government. This problem goes well beyond the right of governments to claim the real property of citizens. It concerns the practice of claiming a property interest in a citizen's children and then holding them hostage to the self-interested demands of the largest government entity in our nation--the public schools.
Of course, the public school establishment will never say outright: "We own your children." But their mind-set and behavior presume exactly that.
Economists are naturally drawn to market solutions. Empowering parents with choice is viewed as a way of injecting improvements and efficiency into a public school system dominated by monopoly power, bloated spending, and poor product quality.
When making such proposals--whether they be for charter schools, vouchers, tax credits for private education, or open enrollment among public schools--one is inevitably faced with a unified education establishment that answers: "But your suggestions for parental choice will hurt the public schools. We will lose students and funds."
Think for a moment about what that means.
To claim that you will "lose" something implicitly presumes that you you own it. But, you cannot "lose" what you don't own in the first place. So, at bottom, the widespread argument that the public school establishment will "lose" students and funds implicitly assumes that the public schools have a presumptive property right in children.
So, reduced to its essence, the position of the public school establishment is that, at birth, children are by default the property of the public schools, and that allows them to lay claim to certain funds through the various public school funding formulas. If parents have the audacity to choose to send their children to a private, charter, or home school, this "takes" these children from their presumptive owners, the public schools, which then "lose" monies to which they are entitled.
Putting it this way lays naked the moral absurdity behind the position of the public education establishment. This is the immoral foundation upon which the arguments of the education establishment rest. And once this is realized, these arguments collapse in an immoral heap.
John Wenders is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at the University of Idaho. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ultimate Parent?
by Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom Foundation, November 11, 2005
If you believe that parents have a natural and constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against you.
The occasion was not a case of child abuse or neglect. Quite the contrary, it was a case of parents objecting to a schools asking their 7- to 10-year-old children about sex.
In 2001 the Palmdale School District, in Los Angeles County, California, had a graduate student in psychology design a survey for children in the first, third, and fifth grades. In a notice to parents, the district said the 79-question survey was intended to establish a community baseline measure of childrens exposure to early trauma (for example, violence) and to identify internal behaviors such as anxiety and depression and external behaviors such as aggression and verbal abuse. The notice told parents that they could opt out of the survey and included a letter of consent, which stated, I understand answering questions may make my child feel uncomfortable. If this occurs, then, Kristi Seymour, the research study coordinator, will assist us in locating a therapist for further psychological help if necessary. This should have been a tip-off to parents.
The letter made no reference to the sexual content of the survey, which asked children how often they engaged in, for example, Touching my private parts too much, Thinking about touching other peoples private parts, and Thinking about sex when I dont want to.
After filing an unsuccessful complaint with the school district, several parents went into federal court for an injunction and damages, charging that the school violated their rights to privacy and to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex. The district and appellate courts rejected those claims. The plaintiffs have not decided whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Two issues deserve attention: (1) Judge Stephen Reinhardts claim that parents freedom regarding education is limited to choosing the schools to which they send their children; and (2) the doctrine of parens patriae, under which the judge ruled that the school district has the legitimate authority to look after not only the education, but also the mental health, of children.
Imagine a Wal-Mart customer demanding, as a matter of right, that the store manager carry certain items and not others. We understand that a customers right consists in patronizing or not patronizing the store. If he enters, he takes the store as he finds it. If he dislikes the store, he can go elsewhere.
Judge Reinhardt believes that, in educating their children, parents are in the same position as the Wal-Mart customer. He writes, Once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished. The constitution does not vest parents with the authority to interfere with a public schools decision as to how it will provide information to its students or what information it will provide, in its classrooms or otherwise.
This reasoning is plausible except for one large detail. Even if parents choose private education, they have to pay school taxes. The choice is rigged. Thats unjust.
Parens patriae, or father of the country, is the doctrine that the state is the ultimate guardian of children. Judge Reinhardt wrote, The questioning can also be justified on the basis of an alternative state interest namely, parens patriae.... The School Districts interest in the mental health of its students falls well within the states authority as parens patriae. As such, the School District may legitimately play a role in the care and nurture of children entrusted to them for schooling.
In fact, parens patriae is one of those high-sounding slogans (the Latin helps) that comes down to this: the state is more powerful than anyone with the audacity to disagree. Did you consent to parens patriae? If not, by what authority does it apply to your children?
Judge Reinhardts presumptuous ruling embodies Senator Hillary Clintons favorite quotation, Theres no such thing as other peoples children. Any self-respecting parent rejects that philosophy root and branch.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.
The Future of Freedom Foundation
The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government.
Declaration of Principles
The United States was founded on the principles of individual freedom, free markets, private property, and limited government. As the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution reflect, individuals have the natural and God-given right to live their lives any way they choose, so long as their conduct is peaceful. It is the duty of government to protect, not destroy, these inherent and inalienable rights.
Thus, for well over a century, the American people said "No" to such anti-free-market government policies as income taxation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, immigration controls, economic regulations, drug laws, gun control, public schooling, and foreign wars. Despite the tragic exception of slavery, the result was the most prosperous, healthy, literate, and compassionate society in history. Unfortunately, in the 20th century, our country has moved in an opposite direction. Operating through the IRS, DEA, ATF, INS, FDA, FTC , and a multitude of other bureaucracies, our government has waged immoral and destructive wars on our freedom, our property, and our well-being.
It has seduced us into believing that we cannot live without this political paternalism. It has weakened our moral fiber and our sense of self-reliance, self-esteem, voluntary charity, and community. It has damaged our families. It has hurt the poorest people in society. It has turned foreigners into enemies. It has trampled on our Constitution. It has undermined our commitment to the moral foundations of freedom and to the benefits of free markets.
The time has come for us to reevaluate our relationship to our government to repeal, not reform, these immoral and destructive government programs to recapture our commitment to the principles of free markets, private property, voluntary charity, and limited government that made our nation great and to believe in ourselves again. It is time for us once again to lead the world to the highest reaches of freedom in history. It is to this end that The Future of Freedom Foundation is dedicated.
Court says parents not sole providers of kids' sex education
- By DAVID KRAVETS, AP Legal Affairs Writer, November 3, 2005
(11-03) 00:08 PST San Francisco (AP) --
A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by elementary school parents who were outraged that the Palmdale School District had surveyed students about sex.
While the surveys asked students how often they thought about sex, among other questions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that parents of public school children have no "fundamental right" to be the exclusive provider of sexual information to their children.
The parents maintained they had the sole right "to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex."
The plaintiffs had sought unspecified monetary damages.
In upholding a lower court that had also ruled against the parents, a three-judge panel of the appeals court here dismissed the case, ruling unanimously that "parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select."
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the San Francisco-based panel, added that "no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty."
The appellate panel noted that other courts have upheld similar issues, including mandatory health classes, a school district's condom distribution program and a district's compulsory sex education program.
An attorney for the parents, Erik Gunderson, said he was exploring appellate options. The district's attorney, Dennis Walsh, said the survey was not to sexually exploit children but instead was part of a legitimate program to help students.
The district, located in Los Angeles County, had dropped the survey in 2002 amid complaints from parents. The poll was given to children in the first, third and fifth grades.
It was part of a program to gauge exposure to early trauma and to assist in designing a program for children to overcome barriers to learning, according to the district.
Parents whose students took the survey signed consent forms, however the forms never mentioned sex would be a topic. Questions the children answered included whether they thought about having sex, thought about touching other people's "private parts" and whether they could "stop thinking about having sex."
The case is Fields v. Palmdale School District, 03-56499.
Editors: David Kravets has been covering state and federal courts for more than a decade.
Parents already have no say in the determination of whether or not our children should be screened for mental health conditions:
Texas Representative Ron Paul Fails to Stop Mental Health Screening Without Parental Consent by the US Government